In January, the Fourth District of the California Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling that the residents of a Huntington Beach mobilehome park did not meet the legal requirements to bring a class action for a myriad of alleged violations against the current and prior owners of the park.
The plaintiffs sought damages resulting from the growth of mushrooms, standing water, insomnia, falls, backed up plumbing, soft spots in the floor and even “extreme rhinitis” experienced by a household dog. Faced with such disparate claims, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Superior Court had correctly denied the residents’ request that the claims be tried in a class action. The plaintiffs then filed their unsuccessful appeal.
The Court of Appeal upheld the arguments made by HKC at the trial court level that the individual plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit lacked the requisite elements of a community of interest, numerosity and a commonality of claims. The Court further found that common issues of fact did not predominate over individual claims of property damage, personal injury and emotional distress, adding that there was no likelihood that the Court or the parties would substantially benefit from proceeding with the case as a class action.
In California, class certification is governed by the Code of Civil Procedure, Section 382 which provides, in part, ‘[W]hen the question is one of a common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court, one or many may sue…for the benefit of all.’ (See, Arenas v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc. (2010) 183 Cal. App. 4th, 723, 731.
The Court of Appeal followed Fireside Bank v. Superior Court (2007) 40 Cal. 4th 1069, 1089, which held that “Class certification requires proof (1) of a sufficiently numerous, ascertainable class, (2) of a well-defined community of interest, and (3) that certification will provide substantial benefits to litigants and the courts, i.e., that proceeding as a class is superior to other methods. …In turn, the ‘community of interest requirement embodies three factors: (1) predominant questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class.”
The result for the HKC client is that instead of facing a class action that could have included potentially hundreds of residents with a wide-ranging array of claims, the park owners now can defend against the specific claims of a handful of individual plaintiffs.